Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Republicans Turn to Obama

It's true, Sooner fans. Some "proud Republicans" are supporting Barack Obama for president. 

How do we know? Easy—we read their full-page ad in today's edition of USA Today. The ad reads, in part, "Uncertain Times Require a Steady Hand." 

It continues: "Our country faces enormous challenges—a failed war, a crippling deficit, and an economy in crisis. We live in uncertain times, and we need a president with sound judgment and steady leadership." 

Then there's this: "That's why millions of Republicans all across our country are rejecting the divisive politics of the past [read: Karl Rove]. We are voting for Barack Obama."

Given that Obama's national poll numbers continue to hold, we suspect that some of the Republican defection is significant and will work to Obama's advantage next Tuesday. We wouldn't be surprised at that, especially considering the many weaknesses of the McCain candidacy and the on-going Palin disappointment. 

But Republican problems this year are not all due to McCain-Palin. Oh, no. 

There's lots of blame to go around, but a lot of it has to be placed squarely on the sagging shoulders of George W. Bush, a conservative Republican president who lacked both the vision and the knowledge to govern well or effectively. 

The Bush failures are numerous and appalling. They should serve as a powerful public reminder that the ideology of radically conservative Republican politics was (and remains) a disaster at home and abroad. 


Savage Baptist said...


...George W. Bush, a conservative Republican president...

George Bush is not a particularly conservative president, save on a very small handful of issues. We were complaining about this back in 1999, just as we conservatives have been screaming since before the primaries began that John McCain was the worst possible Republican candidate--not consistently conservative over the last several years, and profoundly unconservative on several key issues.

...radically conservative Republican politics...

I can't quite make up my mind here. Could it be that "radically conservative" was a slip of the pen? Or were you genuinely unaware that it is, by definition, impossible to be "radically" conservative? That one may be radical, or one may be conservative, but "radically conservative" is a contradiction in terms? It is like saying, "conservatively liberal." If, by chance, you meant something like "profoundly conservative, then you have to wonder if you are genuinely unaware of how far the Bush administration's policies depart from the mainstream of historical conservative thought, or if you are merely determined to confuse the unwary by associating Bush with conservatism.

Bush didn't get the Republican nomination in 2000 because he was conservative; all Republican candidates claim to be conservative, but not all of them are. Bush got the nomination for the same reason that McCain got it this time: the party as a whole--again, conservatives are not the whole of the Republican Party, unfortunately--thought he was the most electable candidate, and they thought it more important to get someone who could beat the Democrat than it was to get someone who was a conservative in the vein of Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk.

Again, I'm not at all sure whether this confusion is deliberate on your part, or the result of not understanding what conservatism is. If the latter, you're in good company; most Republicans don't understand it these days, either! But if you want a good introduction to the subject, I'd suggest Kirk's The Conservative Mind.

Tulsan said...

I'm not sure we can wait around for the second coming of Kirk to be nominated for President, or even to have any influence on the candidate. Thus "true" conservatism may never get a try (the same way "true" communism didn't.)

So how does today's GOP measure up to Kirk's six canons of conservatism?

1. A belief in a transcendent order, which Kirk described variously as based in tradition, divine revelation, or natural law;

Today's GOP: Not particularly informed by this, except Jesus is definitely number one, or "my god is bigger than your god" as a recent invocation at a McCain rally had it.

2. An affection for the "variety and mystery" of human existence;

Today's GOP: not big on diversity; "mystery" limited to specific Christian beliefs.

3. A conviction that society requires orders and classes that emphasize "natural" distinctions;

Today's GOP: OK, this one works. The haves and the have-nots, may the twain grow ever distant. Reverse Robin Hoodism: redistribute the wealth.

4. A belief that property and freedom are closely linked;

Today's GOP: see number 3. Relevant property: guns.

5. A faith in custom, convention, and prescription;

Here's where AT's seemingly oxymoronic "radically conservative" comes in. Obama and the Democratic Party are probably more conservative in Kirk's sense. If you feel that courting Armageddon (as Palin likely would) has much to do with custom, convention or prescription, she's your gal.

6. A recognition that innovation must be tied to existing traditions and customs, which entails a respect for the political value of prudence.

Today's GOP: Teach the "controversy." Fundamentalist beliefs should always trump science. Keep your base happy.


There just aren't many philosophical conservatives around, and probably never were. They certainly aren't viable as a party or even a group with much influence beyond lending gravitas.

"Conservative" today is mostly a way to refer to a someone with a cluster of beliefs that have coherence only from a sociological viewpoint, not a philosophical one.

Savage Baptist said...

Eventually, there's going to have to be more than just two people commenting here. :)

The spin you put on a couple of those points sounds awfully bitter, Tulsan, but I'm not going to engage them. Ain't got the time. I did think, though, that this:

"Conservative" today is mostly a way to refer to a someone with a cluster of beliefs that have coherence only from a sociological viewpoint, not a philosophical one.

is not actually too far away from a point I've made often, that too many putative conservatives today are actually people who hold a series of popular conservative positions without having an adequate intellectual base--that is, they support property rights without being able to adequately articulate why they are necessary (An excellent exploration of the subject may be found in De Soto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. You can read my review here, if you like. It really does amount to a whole lot more than using the police power of the government to maintain the status quo between the haves and have-nots, you know.), or they may support second amendment liberties without understanding their genesis in centuries of Swiss defense of their liberties (an excellent start on the subject is Target Switzerland).

Having said that, I must also say that most liberals I encounter don't exactly have the strongest intellectual background, either, mostly limiting their intellectual discourse to screeching diatribes against positions they plainly do not understand and grossly distort as they attempt to excoriate them.

All of which, I suppose, largely concedes Rick Shenkman's point in Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter. (You can read my review of that one here, if you like.)

Tulsan said...

SB: "...too many putative conservatives today are actually people who hold a series of popular conservative positions without having an adequate intellectual base..."

As you say, most people of any political or religious persuasion do not believe what they believe because they examined the history and philosophy of competing positions, then made a judicious choice. Did you become a Baptist in that manner? Most spend their intellectual resources justifying and articulating positions already held for reasons not so intellectual.

Big "system" thinkers in politics and religion seem to put their own temperament and feelings and struggles into fancy abstract cloth, then run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

If it is true that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines," then most folks have expansive minds, able to "believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

The public may like the contours of a theory or belief for what it seems to say about them and what their lives are about. They may respond to the idea that some heavy intellect has certified the rightness and goodness of it.

Reading about Mr. Kirk: co-founder of The National Review, staunch Luddite, converted to Catholicism apparently at his wife's behest.

Tulsan said...

And yes, my initial points were scattershot, but with the intent of contrasting the product of a theoretician's genteel sensibilities with the actual beast.

To be "radically conservative" does make sense in light of my comment

---"Conservative" today is mostly a way to refer to a someone with a cluster of beliefs that have coherence only from a sociological viewpoint, not a philosophical one.---

as possessing an intense fervor and intent on the hot "conservative" points of the day, e.g., guns, God, gays, abortion.

It does not mean to go to the intellectual roots of conservatism, as few leaders OR followers are inclined in that direction.

Radical: a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.

OR: a person who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.